A new year, a new opportunity to clean up your credit. Make 2018 the year you address your finances. Improve your credit and give yourself more opportunities and more cash in your pocket. Cleaning up your credit is as simple as following these five steps.
Step 1: Review Your Credit Reports
Review your credit reports from each of the three major credit reporting agencies. The three big credit reporting agencies, Equifax, Experian and Trans Union, do not share their information with each other. Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (“FCRA”), you are entitled to one free copy of your report annually. Visit www.annualcreditreport.com to obtain a copy of your report from each of the big three.
Studies show that one in three American consumers have never reviewed their credit report. Considering one in four consumer’s reports contains an error, this number is shockingly high. Pull your report and make sure you are aware of what is being reported about you.
Step 2: Dispute Inaccurate Information on Your Credit Report
Dispute inaccurate information on your credit report. If there are accounts that do not belong to you or are reporting incorrect payment histories, you are entitled to have the credit bureaus investigate into your disputes free of charge. All that is required is that you notify them, preferably in writing, precisely what information on your report is incorrect and why. The credit bureaus must respond to your dispute within 30 days.
Step 3: Pay Off Your Debt
Pay off your debt, to the extent that you are able. Experts say that almost half of American consumers cannot pay off their credit card in full each month. In an effort to pay off your balances, reach out to lenders and ask them to lower your interest rates so that you can pay in full. Work on creating a budget that will allow you to live and have extra money available to pay off your debt. Cut back on some pleasures while you pay down your balances.
Step 4: Protect Yourself Against Identity Theft
Protect yourself against identity theft. In light of the recent data breach at Equifax that affected more than 140 million consumers, review your report. Check it a few times a year. Consider placing a fraud alert on your file that can prohibit identity thieves from opening up new credit in your name. A fraud alert means that when new credit is opened in your name, the lender must contact you directly prior to approval.
Step 5: Set Financial Goals
Set financial goals for yourself. Setting small goals for yourself will allow a greater chance at success. For example, if you struggle to pay off your credit card every month and find yourself charging more than is in your budget, trying opening up a secured credit card. This type of credit will not allow you to spend more than you can afford . A secured card forces you to pay down an amount that you plan on spending during the course of the month and won’t let you use the card for charges beyond that. Secured cards are a great way to build your credit and reflect positively on your report.
If you believe your rights have been violated under the FCRA and you would like the advice or assistance of counsel, contact SmithMarco P.C. for a completely free case review.